Leading the way

Joe Harrington

A big offensive line has Kent State football up and running this season

Starting offensive linemen Joe Marafine, Josh Perry, Shawn Donaldson and Augustus Parrish are paving the way for sophomore running back Eugene Jarvis, who is now the second leading rusher in the nation and first in the Mid-American Conference. GAVIN JACK

Credit: Jason Hall

In an age when there are many self promoting football players, such as Terrell Owens, it’s nice to see the second leading rusher in the nation never give himself credit for his play. Sophomore running back Eugene Jarvis will never say that his ability is the only reason for his 100-yard games, which he has in every game this season. Jarvis likes to give credit to the largest guys on the field.

When your offensive line averages 6 feet 5 inches and 300 pounds, it’s a sure bet that they’re the biggest guys on the team. It’s also a good bet to say the offense will be running the ball.

Seniors Joe Marafine and Shawn Donaldson are the guards; they are both 6 feet 4 inches and a hamburger away from 305 pounds. Junior tackles Augustus Parrish, and Travis McGraw are both 6 feet 5 inches and 305 pounds. The center, Josh Perry, is the smallest player of the group, if 6 feet 2 inches, 295 pounds is small.

“They’re playing as well anybody right now,” coach Doug Martin said.

The offensive line has developed quietly over the past two seasons. In 2005, the Flashes ranked 11th in the Mid-American Conference in rushing. Now, they lead the MAC with 947 yards. After four games, the closest team to them is Ball State, almost 200 yards behind the Flashes.

Donaldson said the goal for his line has been 1,700 yards rushing this season. The way his team has been running the ball, they should reach that number in the next three games, especially if Jarvis and junior quarterback Julian Edelman continue to create a two-headed running attack.

“It’s big,” Perry said. “It motivates us when we see (Jarvis) running so well.”

Marafine and Donaldson said their new goal is to have two 1,000 yard rushers in the back field, the first ever in Kent State history.

Perry is the only player on this year’s line who didn’t play in all 12 games last season. It was because he was hurt. That cohesiveness has turned the line into a close unit. Donaldson said they are best friends on and off the field, which could be the reason why the line has gelled into one of the elite units in the MAC.

“So far so good,” Jarvis said. “They’ve been doing their job opening holes for me.”

The big guys don’t need to be told how many yards they have rushing this season because they are constantly reminded every time they enter the locker room.

The line has a blocking thermometer on a bulletin board, and it rises or falls after every game. The line is very proud that the season is on pace to resemble a hot day when it is all said and done.

” We just have to keep pushing it up,” Marafine said.

The line has also pass-blocked well, too, Martin said. With a quarterback like Edelman, who is at his best when he runs out of the pocket and uses his legs, the offense will give up sacks, but not always because of the line. Martin believes they’re playing just as well in the pass blocking game as they are running the ball.

“The goal is to never give up a sack,” Marafine said. Donaldson added that he would rather get a penalty than have a defensive player touch his quaterback.

If fans didn’t notice the nine sacks that the team has allowed, it could be because they couldn’t see over the line.

They dwarf everyone else on the offense, with 5-foot-5-inch Jarvis and 6-foot Edelman behind them. Jarvis has said defenses lose track of him when he runs into a hole created by a pulling guard, who is a foot taller then him.

” The bigger the better, as long as they can move,” Martin said.

For an offense that likes to run many screens and pull their guards to open holes on the outside, athleticism is a must.

For this reason, Martin is high on red-shirt freshman Pat Reedy and sophomore Dante Campbell, who will be relied on to replace the graduating seniors next season. The two players are both 280 pounds and are frequently substituted during the game.

There are many stories about NFL running backs and quarterbacks who buy their lineman cars and Caribbean cruises after the end of every season, but Jarvis isn’t at that level yet, so dinner may have to do. Then again, since his blockers are the size of Volkswagens, maybe a cruise would be cheaper.

Contact football reporter Joe Harrington at [email protected].